≡ Menu Search


European Union

The European Union (EU) is the largest economy in the world and provides more than half of the world’s development assistance. Its institutions and 28 Member states sit at the highest tables of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the G20, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Increasingly active on the global stage through its various political, development, security, and economic tools, the EU is a unique and key actor in promoting peace, justice, and security; preventing conflict; and responding to crises across the world.

Established in 2004, Saferworld’s office in Brussels gives us direct access to decision-makers in the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission (EC), the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. Through our policy and advocacy work, we strive to make the relevant EU institutions and Member States more effective at preventing violent conflict and building sustainable peace.

In particular, our work aims to inform EU approaches to conflict prevention and peacebuilding and close the ‘implementation gap’ between policy and practice to ensure that the EU makes a real difference in countries affected by conflict.

As a founding member of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), a member of Crisis Action and CONCORD, we also take part in joint advocacy initiatives with fellow NGOs.

Supporting the EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding agenda

Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and the subsequent establishment of the EEAS, Saferworld has been working with various institutions to inform the development and implementation of the EU’s conflict prevention and peacebuilding agenda, notably its conflict early warning system as well as its conflict analysis and conflict sensitivity practices.

In addition, we actively promote the adoption of peacebuilding approaches in EU external action, including on migration, counter-terrorism and statebuilding. Finally, we share field-based analyses on a regular basis with Brussels-based Headquarters and Delegations to inform EU in-country engagement.

Arms control

We are working to strengthen the regulation of the European arms trade by developing policy recommendations to improve the implementation of the EU Common Position on arms exports. See for example our analyses highlighting that EU arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the context of the war in Yemen are in breach of the EU Common Position and calling for the establishment of an EU arms embargo. We also support dialogue between civil society and EU institutions and Member States to improve implementation through the exchange of information and analysis. Finally, we run an run an EU Arms transparency tracker which provides a comparative tool on arms transfer reporting practices in the EU.

For more information, see our page on arms transfer controls in Europe.

EU implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Having actively promoted the inclusion of peace, governance and justice in the 2030 Agenda and engaged with the EU and Member States’ to inform their position, including through key networks such as EPLO and the European Task Force of Beyond 2015, our work is currently focused on ensuring that the commitment to peaceful and inclusive societies outlined in Goal 16 is translated into action. This includes generating political buy-in at the EU level, including through the organisation of a debate on building peaceful societies at the 2016 European Development Days, and providing technical advice to support the implementation and monitoring of Goal 16.

For more information, see our page on Peace and the 2030 Agenda.

Raising awareness about community security

Saferworld has been raising awareness about how community security can provide a useful vehicle to support the realisation of EU peacebuilding and statebuilding objectives. While the EU and the international community have increasingly been supporting security and justice system reforms, the impact on people’s lives has been mixed. Building on our experiences, as well as the experiences of others, we are promoting complementary and innovative approaches to security building through bottom up, participatory processes – a type of engagement which is not widely known across the EU. To this end, we produced a briefing Community Security: A vehicle for peacebuilding and statebuilding, and regularly engage bilaterally with relevant EU institutions, including to inform the development of an EU-wide Strategic Framework for supporting Security Sector Reform.

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the EU went through a transformative process to assert its ambitions as a truly global actor. The European External Action Service (EEAS), which serves as the EU’s diplomatic corps, was established in December 2010 with the mandate of designing and delivering a more consistent, effective and strategic EU foreign policy, notably by bringing together previously disparate units and staff under one institution working in close collaboration with the European Commission (EC).

Consequently, the adoption of ‘Council conclusions on conflict prevention’ in 2011 revived an agenda of action focusing on early warning, early action/mediation and strategic partnerships. Furthermore, the ‘Agenda for Change’ (2011) set out a new overarching development policy identifying conflict and fragility as key challenges to tackle. This led the responsible bodies within the EEAS and the EC to work on new processes to translate commitments into concrete action, through the elaboration of guidelines for conflict prevention, conflict sensitivity, conflict analysis as well as through the setting-up of early warning mechanisms.

The EU has unique peacebuilding potential stemming from its various political, development, security, and economic instruments. However, further support and action is needed to promote effective, innovative and coherent policies, and to close the gap between policy development and implementation on the ground.

Initiative for Peacebuilding – Early Warning

Between 2009 and 2012 we took part in the EC-funded project ‘Initiative for Peacebuilding – Early Warning’ to help the EU anticipate and respond more rapidly and effectively in volatile situations. We evaluated the EU's pre-Lisbon Treaty early warning mechanisms and analysed the lessons learned from the EU response to the political crises in Kenya (2008) and Kyrgyzstan (2010).

People's Peacemaking Perspectives

In 2012, Saferworld completed work on the ‘People’s Peacemaking Perspectives’ – an EC-funded project to provide the EU with in-depth conflict analyses from 18 different conflicts around the world. The findings of these analyses were used to produce policy briefs for the EU highlighting areas for improved political, policy and programming interventions.

Working with partner organisations in-country, we also helped build the capacity of local civil society to contribute to decisions and actions affecting them beyond the lifetime of the project.

Initiative for Peacebuilding – security cluster

In 2010, we completed work on another ‘Initiative for Peacebuilding’ project, assessing the extent to which community needs are reflected and addressed by donor programming. The focus was on improving the design and implementation of EU security-building programmes to ensure they are responsive to the needs and concerns of local communities, and to maximise the potential for sustainable peace and long-term development. The focus countries of this cluster included Albania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Nepal, and Ukraine.

more features


EU foreign policy risks fuelling displacement and terror

In light of growing populism throughout Europe, Kloe Tricot O’Farrell argues that domestic priorities should not come at the expense of EU commitments to alleviate poverty and promote peace.


Effective local action: from early warning to peacebuilding

This report captures the main findings of the Capacities for Peace project, which worked with local actors to enhance the effectiveness of early warning and early action in 32 conflict-affected countries.

The dangers of the EU's quick fix approach to migration

We urge the EU and its Member States to demonstrate their commitment to peace by prioritising long-term development and peacebuilding to tackle the root causes of migration.